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TV Review - Haughey triggers horrible hair memories

Charlie (RTE ONE). Tonight With Vincent Browne (TV 3). Katie Hopkins: My Fat Story (TLC).

I was talking to an actor a few weeks ago, as you sometimes have to do. As nice a chap as an actor can be - once you remove the kind of crippling insecurity, massive ego, tiny self-esteem and vituperative sense of schadenfreude that is normally the hallmark of journalists - he stared mournfully into his beer and lamented the fact that he hadn't bagged a gig on Charlie, RTE's flagship new drama.

His reasoning was as simple as any rejected actor's reasoning can be: "I hadn't a chance. Sure I wasn't in Love/Hate," he laughed thinly, before bursting into sobs of furious, wounded indignation.

I put it down the usual actorly bitterness that appears every time they don't get a job - when that happens, most of them turn into their own version of Withnail, wandering the proverbial moors and screaming about how they will show everyone and make those who crossed them pay.

But as the first episode of Charlie began to trundle along, I was struck by the realisation that, for once in his life, he was right.

There's a reason for that, of course. Love/Hate has been the most successful home-produced programme in years (although I must admit I much preferred Bachelors Walk) and the players from that drama are on the crest of a wave at the moment. But let's be honest, if you played a drinking game and had to knock back a shot every time you saw someone from the Dublin crime drama turn up in Charlie - which is also a crime drama, I suppose, in its own way - you'd be having your stomach pumped by the time the end credits rolled.

The story is well known by now, of course. If you're someone who has even a vague interest in democracy, you'd see him as a liar, charlatan and a bully extraordinaire, even by the low and grubby standards of an Irish shyster. If you benefited from his infamously cynical largess, such as those in the arts 'community', you think he is 'complex' or 'nuanced'. That, of course, is the polite way of saying you knew he was a bastard but he threw you some crumbs from his table and you remain eternally, pathetically grateful.

Trying to accurately portray our very own, homegrown Berlusconi was always going to be a big ask, but Aidan Gillen delivered his own version of the man that seemed aimed somewhere between caricature and straight impersonation.

Gillen being Gillen, of course, it was compelling. A damn fine actor who only seems to be getting better with time, he set about his job with obvious relish, as did Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Haughey's consigliere, PJ Mara, although his voice seemed modelled on the Scrap Saturday caricature of the former spin doctor, and there were undeniable traces of Nidge seeping through every now and then.

Sly, post-modern digs abounded, such as them sniggering at the very idea of Charlie McCreevy ever being given the finance portfolio, but one of the most striking aspects of this portrayal of 1980s skulduggery and intimidation was the hair. Jesus, the hair.

I know that was a strange decade; so strange it made Dick Spring a sex symbol (well, in my mother's eyes, anyway) but most us will have surely forgotten the grotesquely thatched barnets everyone seemed to wear.

Shocked and a little appalled, I immediately went back into my treasured box set of Reelin' In The Years and, yup, things were really that bad back then.

The first episode was always going to be hampered by the need for short dollops of exposition, otherwise our precious Millennials would have become angry and confused by the events being played out. But such was the semi-comedic tone that at times I expected Vaughan-Lawlor to go full Frances Urquhart and start breaking the fourth wall by sniggering menacingly to the camera.

We're well used to menacing sniggering from TV3's very own Napoleon, Vincenzo Browne, but Wednesday's show was a classic of its kind. Its kind, of course, being the determinedly demented liberalism that saw panellists not only bemoan the attack on Charlie Hebdo but also worry that it might lead to a backlash against Muslims.

The last segment of Tonight with Vincent Browne was devoted to fretting about such an occurrence. It says a lot about the strange ideals of some liberals who, less than 12 hours after an attack that left 12 people dead, still managed to find the time to fret about something that hasn't even happened.

Funny, that. And not in the ha-ha way, either. Chin-stroking pomposity has never seemed so deluded.

Unlike pretty much everybody else in the civilised world, I have a sneaking regard for Katie Hopkins. A mischief maker par excellence, she manages the almost impossible pointing out ugly truths in an even more ugly manner. But that doesn't change the fact that a lot of what she says is still the truth.

There was one genuinely brilliant moment in the truly ridiculous Katie Hopkins: My Fat Story, which saw her gain some weight and then lose it again.

Speaking to some professional fatties, one of them got the hump and waddled out to rang the cops to report a 'hate crime' because Hopkins said that she needed to lose weight.

Sometimes the fattest people, I guess, have the thinnest skins.

Irish Independent